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A detailed travel guide for a Sydney to Melbourne road trip!
A Sydney to Melbourne road trip is one of the most popular things to do in Australia.
Of all the country’s big cities, Sydney and Melbourne are the two most famous.
Not even Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, or the capital city of Canberra can compete with these two meccas of culture, nightlife, art, and tourism.
Sydney and Melbourne are also the two most populated cities in Australia, each with over 4 million inhabitants.
These cities are both incredible, and luckily they are only about 800 km apart (For the huge continent of Australia, this is a short distance!).
Doing a Sydney to Melbourne road trip is a great way to see more of the landscape and culture that lies in between the big cities.
You can explore the small towns and hidden beaches of New South Wales and Victoria, and the journey won’t even take too long.
With this article, I’ll share some travel tips and some of my personal experiences traveling from Sydney to Melbourne, including my favorite places to stop along the way.
Keep in mind, this is just a rough guideline and the trip can be changed or modified however you like!
Also, you can easily reverse this trip if you’re traveling from Melbourne to Sydney instead.
How To Drive from Sydney to Melbourne
Just for reference, here are some quick facts about the distance between Sydney and Melbourne:
- Sydney to Melbourne by plane: 713 km (1 hour and 25 minutes)
- By car (inland route): 877 km (8 hours and 40 minutes)
- By car (coastal route): 1,032 km (12 hours and 40 minutes)
If you are short on time, just catch a flight.
It will probably be pretty cheap and it only takes about an hour to fly between Sydney and Melbourne.
The quickest route for driving from Sydney to Melbourne is driving inland towards Canberra.
So if you are trying to transport lots of stuff, that is the fastest route to take but there isn’t much to see. You can bang this drive out in a day.
If you want to spread the journey out over a few days and stop at a few nice places, do the road trip along the coast!
I recommend AT LEAST three days for the Sydney to Melbourne coastal road trip, but you could stretch it out to last a week or more if you really want to explore.
Where To Stay on a Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
You’ll need to stay overnight during your road trip, and luckily there are some great options for accommodation and camping in NSW and VIC.
If you have the gear, camping is an amazing way to live simply and get in touch with nature.
There are tons of well-equipped campgrounds in Australia. Some are free but basic. Some cost money but have amenities like kitchens and bathrooms.
Check these websites for places to camp between Sydney and Melbourne:
If you’d rather stay in real accommodation, Airbnb is the way to go.
There are hotels and a few hostels on the way, but Airbnb is so popular in Australia and there are countless beautiful and cozy homes available for travelers.
So definitely check Airbnb for the best places to stay during your Sydney to Melbourne road trip.
If you’re really on a tight budget, check Hostelworld for the cheapest dorm rooms along your route.
Best Stops on a Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
Now that you’ve figured out a time frame and places to stay, let’s get into the best part of the road trip: the places to stop!
The whole point of a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne is exploring all the lesser-known and beautiful places in between the two cities.
I’ll list some of my favorite places in Australia that lie along the coastal route. Some of the stops require an inland detour, but it’s worth checking out the mountains, villages and rolling green hills at least once.
These are just recommendations, so you can add or remove places from your trip if you’d like!
As the most populated city in Australia, Sydney is jam-packed with things to do.
Chances are if you’re doing this road trip, you’ve already spent ample time exploring Sydney.
If you’re still looking for inspiration about the best things to do in Sydney, here are some of my favorites:
- Check out Sydney Harbor (Make sure to admire the Sydney Opera House or book a Harbor Bridge Climb!)
- Relax in the Botanic Gardens
- Eat delicious food in Chinatown
- Do the scenic Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
- Enjoy the northern beaches around Manly
- Browse through the trendy shops and art galleries in Newtown
After hitting all the tourist attractions in Sydney, get out of the city and explore the stunning natural scenery of New South Wales!
The Blue Mountains are inland, so they’re not exactly on the coastal route from Sydney to Melbourne.
But they are only about an hour west of Sydney and totally worth it if you’re a sucker for raw, rugged wilderness and hiking or camping.
The Blue Mountains are simply stunning and full of hiking trails and scenic lookouts.
You can visit just for a day, or stay overnight either at a free campground or in the towns of Katoomba or Blackheath.
I wrote a personal account of my time in the Blue Mountains if you’re looking for inspiration: How To Spend A Day In The Blue Mountains.
Otherwise, there are plenty of attractions here that I didn’t even get to. Among the list of the Blue Mountains highlights are:
- Enjoy the famous Three Sisters Lookout
- Hike to Pulpit Rock and admire the scenery
- Seek out some waterfalls, the best ones include Wentworth Falls, Empress Falls, Leura Cascades, Katoomba Falls
- Hike the Grand Canyon walking track
- Visit Scenic World and ride the Scenic Skyway: Book tickets here!
- Admire stalactites and stalagmites in Jenolan Caves
- Visit the Conservation Hut Cafe for a coffee with a view
Royal National Park
Directly south of Sydney lies the Royal National Park.
Full of Eucalyptus trees, jagged cliffs, and near-deserted beaches, it’s hard to believe this oasis of natural beauty is so close to the city.
Some of the best things to do in the Royal National park include:
- Walking along the Coast Track and seeing incredible sights like the Balconies and the Wedding Cake Rock
- Cliff jumping in Wattamolla
- Enjoying a coffee and a snack at a cute little cafe in Bundeena (one of the only actual towns in the Royal National Park)
- Swimming or surfing at Garie Beach
- Hiking to the unique and picturesque Figure 8 Pools (only possible at low tide!)
- Camping at the secluded and peaceful North Era Beach
For more information about these places, check out this Guide To The Royal National Park: Sydney, Australia.
Grand Pacific Drive
After leaving the Royal National Park and continuing south along the coast, you’ll end up on the Grand Pacific Drive.
This scenic stretch of road continues through the Illawarra Region of NSW and all the way down to Kiama, so you’ll be on it for a while.
Early on you’ll pass the famous Sea Cliff Bridge that juts out over the ocean. At the southern end of the bridge, park your car and climb up the bush track to get an aerial view.
If you’re on a time crunch, you may just drive along the Grand Pacific Drive and admire the views.
But if you want to slow down and soak in all that the area has to offer, check out this article for the best activities: 12 Things To Do Along The Grand Pacific Drive.
If you need somewhere to grab some food or go for a swim during your Sydney to Melbourne road trip, Wollongong is a great place to stop.
It’s a small city with some gorgeous beaches and rock pools, and a large variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The best places to swim in Wollongong are
- City Beach
- City Beach Rock Pool
- North Beach
- Gentleman’s Baths
Some of the best cafes in Wollongong include:
- Diggies Beach Cafe
- Sifters Cafe
- Quay Canteen
- Quotes Cafe
Some of my favorite places to eat in Wollongong are
- Steamers Bar and Grill for upscale dining and seafood
- Thursday Night Eat Street Market for cheap street food
- Ziggy’s House of Noms for loose-leaf tea and fresh dumplings
- Thai Gong Restaurant for cheap Thai food
If you’re willing to take a slight detour from the coast, head about 40 minutes southwest from Wollongong into the Southern Highlands.
This lush, green area of hills and forests is full of adorable little towns, powerful waterfalls, and fun hiking trails.
Moss Vale and Bowral are some of the biggest towns in the Southern Highlands that have wineries and cafes. Robertson is a cute small town with cool antique stores and a famous pie shop.
My favorite places of natural beauty in the Southern Highlands are
- Belmore Falls (Visit the Hindmarsh lookout for a great view)
- Carrington Falls (A huge waterfalls with refreshing pools at the top
- McQuarie Pass (a relaxed hiking trail with small waterfalls for swimming)
Killalea State Park
Once you get back to the coast after the Southern Highlands, Killalea State Park is an amazing beach to stop at.
This beach is a national surfing reserve, and the clear blue waters have small waves for beginner surfers and bigger waves for more advanced surfers.
Even if you don’t want to surf, this is a truly stunning beach surrounded by picnic grounds, so it makes for a lovely stop along your road trip from Sydney to Melbourne.
This gem of New South Wales marks the end of the Grand Pacific Drive.
Kiama makes a great stop for catching some sunshine, stretching the legs, and refueling during a Sydney to Melbourne road trip. There is a lovely coastal walk where you can stroll along the harbor and the town center has lots of nice cafes and eateries.
This town is most famous for its blowholes. The Kiama Blowhole is located right near the center of town, and it is fascinating to watch the ferocious waves crash through the craggy rocks and spurt out through the natural hole.
Kiama also has a Little Blowhole just a short drive away from the big one. Though it’s smaller, the water jets out in a thinner but more powerful jet stream.
The Kiama blowholes are best visited when the swell is big so there are more powerful waves.
Once you leave Kiama, you’ll also leave the Illawarra Region of NSW and enter the Shoalhaven Region.
The small and historic village of Berry consists of just a few streets lined with rustic buildings. There are some great cafes and antique shops, and the architecture is quaint and historic.
You have to stop at the Berry Donut Van while passing through town. They sell delicious, fresh doughnuts that are pretty much famous on the South Coast of NSW.
This peninsula that juts out into the Pacific is a true gem of New South Wales.
It makes for an incredibly scenic stop along a Sydney to Melbourne road trip, and it has arguably some of the most gorgeous beaches in Australia.
To see these picturesque beaches, walk along the White Sands Coastal Walk. This easy trail winds through the bush and passes countless beaches with soft white sand and turquoise water.
Among these white sand beaches is Hyams Beach, which holds a reputation for having the whitest sand in the world.
Jervis Bay is also home to lots of camping sites, hiking trails, and waves for surfing.
About 30 minutes south of Jervis Bay is Milton, a charming and charismatic town surrounded by rolling green hills.
There are lots of shops and cafes in Milton to entertain travelers for an afternoon.
Some of the best cafes in Milton include:
- Pilgrims Vegetarian Cafe
- Brown Sugar
- Milk Haus (a short drive out of town, set on a farm)
- Duke & Co.
After grabbing a coffee and a snack at one of these cafes, stop at Mollymook Beach just south of the town for a refreshing swim in the ocean.
Or head to Cupitt’s Winery to treat yourself to some local wine tastings and high-quality food and entertainment.
Clyde River Berry Farm
If you’re doing your Sydney to Melbourne road trip during the summer (December through February), you’re in the peak of blueberry season!
Enjoy some of the local produce and support a small local business by driving about 30 minutes inland to visit Clyde River Berry Farm.
Spend some time picking your own fresh juicy blueberries to take on your road trip. But even better than the berries is the ice cream you can get here!
For $6, you can buy a homemade blueberry ice cream that is out of this world. The staff pour blueberries and vanilla ice cream together into a machine that blends them into a creamy, delicious treat.
After Milton or the Berry Farm, you can cover a bit of ground as you head south towards Melbourne.
After about two hours, you’ll see signs for Tilba Tilba, another scenic small village located a short drive inland.
Surrounded by fairy-tale scenery and adorned with gingerbread-house-like buildings, this village is simply adorable.
Stop at Tilba Teapot Cafe to get a warm, homemade scone with jam and cream.
The southernmost end of NSW is known as the Sapphire Coast, and Merimbula is one of the busier towns of the area.
The Sapphire Coast offers great fishing and whale-watching, national parks and wildlife, and plenty of stunning beaches.
Merimbula has a peaceful boardwalk, a few nice beaches, and plenty of great seafood restaurants.
Other notable towns along the Sapphire Coast are Bermagui, which has gorgeous rock pools for swimming, Tathra, which is great for kayaking and paddleboarding, and Bega, which produces lots of great quality dairy products.
After leaving southern NSW and crossing the border into Victoria, you can continue driving for a while as there isn’t much to see at first.
The road is quite scenic as it winds through forests and valleys, though recently a lot of the nature in Victoria was destroyed from Australia’s 2020 wildfires.
But once you get towards the southern edge of Victoria, you’ll find some amazing national parks and campgrounds.
Wilson’s Promontory is one of the best national parks in Victoria, and Tidal River Campground is the hub of the park.
Definitely do at least one epic hike and stop at a few beaches along the way.
Here are some of the best hikes and walks in Wilson’s Promontory:
- Tidal Overlook Circuit to see coastal scenery (3.8 km)
- Tidal River to Squeaky Beach to see a nice beach with soft and squeaky sand (4.2 km)
- The Big Drift to see majestic sand dunes ( about 4 km)
- Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit to see rainforest scenery and lots of flora and fauna(5.8 km)
- Mount Oberon Summit to see an incredible lookout over the park (3.4 km)
- Picnic Bay to Whiskey Bay to see picturesque beaches (about 700 meters)
Located to the southeast of Melbourne is the Mornington Peninsula.
This piece of land is scattered with beaches, viewpoints, and most notably, wineries.
If you want to do a wine-tasting during your Sydney to Melbourne road trip, this is the place to do it.
A tasting usually costs around 10 AUD, but they waive the fee if you buy a bottle of wine!
Some of the best wineries in the Mornington Peninsula include:
- Crittenden Estate
- Yabby Lake Winery
- Avani Wines
- Trofeo Estate
- Fenian Wines
- Myrtaceae Winery
Finally, after over 1,000 kilometers, you’ve made it to Melbourne!
Melbourne is a very vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis. Full of great restaurants, bars and cafes, art galleries, viewpoints, parks, gardens, street art, markets, and more, this city has it all.
You can even visit the beach or take a day trip to the Great Ocean Road.
Check out this article for more in-depth recommendations about the best things to do in Melbourne: 10 Reasons To Visit Melbourne.
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So there is a rough outline of a Sydney to Melbourne road trip guide!
It includes all my favorite places along the southeast coast of Australia, and hopefully, you’ll catch a glimpse of the culture and natural beauty of New South Wales and Victoria along the way.
Other Necessities for a Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
Before planning a Sydney to Melbourne road trip, or any travels in Australia, make sure you have good travel insurance.
I always recommend Squaremouth Insurance because I’ve had great experiences with them.
They have lots of affordable plans for the budget traveler, and they have a super helpful live chat so you can ask their staff any questions and get quick answers.
Visas for Australia
Australia is one of those countries that require any visitor to have a visa. Whether you are staying for one day, one week, or one year, you have to have some sort of visa.
If you’re staying for less than three months you need a tourist visa.
If you want to spend more time in Australia, you can get a working holiday visa for one year. Check out my Guide To Working Holiday Visas In Australia (First and Second Year) for more info on that.
I find iVisa.com to be very helpful for checking visa requirements for various countries.
More Travel Articles about Australia
For some more inspiration and travel tips about Australia, check out these articles: